First Avenue workers deliver union petition calling for better pay and scheduling

More than 200 workers throughout First Avenue-owned music venues have signed and delivered a petition calling on the company to recognize their union with Unite Here Local 17.

According to a press release, workers are hoping to negotiate a union contract, collectively calling for, "respectful scheduling, fair pay, and improved training."

First Avenue-owned venues in the Twin Cities include First Avenue/7th Street Entry, Depot Tavern, Turf Club, Fine Line Music Café, Palace Theatre and Fitzgerald Theater.

"For decades, First Avenue bartenders, service and event staff have worked hard to ensure concertgoers enjoy their night at one of the country’s most important independent venue," workers said in a statement provided by Unite Here to media. "Now, workers are demanding a seat at the table with their employer, so together they can create better workplaces for decades of music to come."

According to the statement, many service and event staff work multiple venues and different jobs on a shift-by-shift basis, and earnings can vary depending on whether workers get assigned tipped or non-tipped positions. 

Schedules can also be unpredictable and are released with only four days’ notice, the statement alleges.

"I’ve missed out on helping my family because of the way the schedule works. I can’t let people know if I’m free until as little as four days before, so I don’t really make plans," said First Ave employee Tony Bosak. "I love my job, I put a lot of effort in, and I don’t feel appreciated. We all want support and recognition."

A press conference was held outside the venue on Nov. 2 shortly after the petition was delivered.

"We recognize that our employees are a key to our success, and it is why we have continually worked to provide them competitive pay, health insurance for anyone working more than 25 hours per week, 401k matching contributions, and more," said First Avenue President and CEO Dayna Frank in a statement provided to media. "When bartenders, service, and event staff expressed their desire to form a union, there was only one answer, which is why we will voluntarily recognize the union."

According to Frank, First Avenue is currently competing against, "multinational and publicly traded entities who own copycat venues and the ticketing companies," as it tries to provide a "temple for artists."

First Avenue-owned venues will remain, "committed to working together to address those challenges," while it bargains in good faith with the workers' union, according to Frank.